NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Police departments around the country are working to connect with minority communities, including here in our area. The North Myrtle Beach Police Department is focusing on bridging the gap with the Hispanic community through faith outside of their regular shift.
"We community-police and that's what we do here, our community is a big part of us," North Myrtle Beach Policeman Sgt. John Griffin said.
Sgt. John Griffin with the NMBPD says the department is simply responding to the growing number of Hispanic residents in the area.
"There's a communication gap between the Hispanic community and our community," Sgt. John Griffin said, which is why police put together a program to allow the Hispanic community to be heard.
Now police are giving their time outside of work hours to find new ways to interact with the community.
"I go to the church and I show my police cars to the kids, so the kids can get more familiar with us," Sgt. John Griffin said.
Lissy Soto is the pastor's wife of the Iglesias de Dios Puente de Salvacion Church in North Myrtle Beach. She's joined forces with Sgt. John Griffin to help get the police department more involved.
"We use Christ to close that gap between the Hispanic community and the law enforcement," Lissy Soto said.
Although building trust isn't always easy for minority groups who sometimes feel police fail them, Soto says frequent visits from police officers make everyone feel more comfortable.
"Now that they know that the policeman do care in North Myrtle Beach, they now can communicate with them regardless if the police don't understand, they know that me, as the pastor's wife, knows English and Spanish where I can translate and help them out," Lissy Soto said, which is why the department wants to introduce new initiatives so residents won't always see their presence as a sign that something is wrong.
"No matter who they are, no matter their race, color, creed, ethnicity, religion, we want them to come to our department because our community is our department and our department is the community," Sgt. John Griffin said.
Sgt. Griffin says the department hopes to serve as a model for other departments looking to adopt similar policies. He says over time, he believes this effort will help strengthen the relationships between police and all ethnic communities here.